Terry Bates eased up off the throttle and his boat glided to a stop near a grain elevator and ditch. He quickly began casting for bass.

In short order, the veteran guide and tournament angler set the hook on a feisty Ferguson bass. As the bass bore down toward the bottom time and time again, it was evident that this was no ordinary bass.

After a few minutes of nip and tuck, the excited angler finally landed the unusual-looking bass. While the fish turned out to be a white bass, it provided quite a thrill right off the bat.

"You can catch largemouths, white bass, catfish, crappie and even bream right here in this spot on this lake," said Bates.

And the catch of the white bass was no accident for this talented angler either.

"I located this school of fish last week, and really caught them," he said. "I thought you might like to catch a few of these to see some of the variety the lake has to offer."

According to Bates, the white bass are abundant and readily strike a variety of lures, perfect for anglers wanting quick action. They make for some exciting times for young anglers also.

Lake Ferguson, located right off the mighty Mississippi River at Greenville, is easily accessible to anglers and provides outstanding action for a variety of fish. And best of all, the lake doesn't have near the fishing pressure of other more famous lakes in the state.

Ferguson is chock full of quality largemouth bass, as evidenced by tournament-winning creels. During most tournaments in good weather conditions, it takes five-fish limits weighing upwards of 20 pounds to win. Strings of 17 to 19 pounds won't even get you a check in many tournaments held on the fertile waters. And during June, it will almost surely take a limit of bass in excess of 25 pounds to even get close.

After battling 25-mph winds and rapidly falling water levels most of the morning, Bates carried us to the "Chute" area of the lake for some old-fashioned flipping.

"We can usually catch some good fish in this area no matter what's going on with the weather or water levels," he said.

Our gear for this particular style of fishing was an Abu Garcia Revo reel teamed with a 7-foot, 10-inch Abu Garcia rod and 100-pound Vicious braided line. Bates' lure choice was a large tube pegged with a bullet weight.

"I'll take this bait, pitch it right in among the willow trees and let it fall about 5 feet," he said. "Most of the time the bass will strike on the fall. If I don't get bit on the initial fall, I'll reel it up and pitch it to another tree. There are just too many trees to waste time on one, so I try to hit as many as possible while picking up the active bass."

The water depth was 17 to 20 feet in this area.

Suddenly the water erupted as a lunker bass exploded through the willow trees as it tried to shake Bates' offering. Alas he was no match for this veteran of many bass wars.

After a quick photo and release, Bates was back at it.

Once the wind subsided, we were back out on the main portion of Ferguson looking for sunken barges.

"During May and June, the bass will stack up on sunken barges and the action will be red hot," Bates said. "Once the bass recover from the spawn, they'll move out to these sunken barges and attack shad and any bait that swims nearby."

Pulling up near a sunken barge, Bates cast out a deep-diving crankbait, and quickly hooked up with a 5-pound-plus lunker.

"Now that's the one I was looking for!" he said. "Cast right up onto the barge, and I'll hold the boat in place."

Though the wind was now howling again, Bates had located another school of bass, and it was up to me to follow his directions. My first throw over the top of the sunken barge drew a strike almost instantly. The feisty bass fought with a vengeance, every bit as hard as I'd been told Ferguson bass do. After a short battle, I landed the bass, and cast out again. Another bass quickly sucked in my Norman DD 14, and I was 2-for-2, with no time for a photo.

On my third cast to the spot, I caught yet another bass, and was now convinced of the ferocity of the Lake Ferguson largemouths I'd heard so much about.

After a quick photo, I released the bass and made another cast which was promptly nailed by another lunker bass. In just a few minutes, we caught a limit of bass that many an angler would covet during almost any tournament.

"We pulled in here one morning and hadn't caught a fish, and 30 minutes later, we had a five-fish string weighing over 23 pounds," Bates said. "We caught them all on crankbaits, and had a lot of fun doing it."

They won the tournament to boot.

If you're looking to catch quality bass and lots of them, head to Lake Ferguson and try a few of Bates' favorite spots.

Ferguson is home to a variety of fish that are plentiful and fun to catch. With the Mississippi River easily accessible on the southern end of the lake, there are literally thousands of places to fish. After you try a few of Bates' spots, look for similar ones, and you just might come up on a honeyhole like we did on our trip.

 

No. 1: N33 25.946 x W91 03.314 - Leave the landing next to the Jubilee Casino, turn right and head north about 1/4 mile. Stop at the grain elevator, and fish your way toward the channel that flows out right under the loading tower. While this just happened to be our first stop of the day, it is also one of the most consistent spots on the lake to catch a variety of fish.

"We catch white bass, largemouths and crappie in this area," said Bates. "A lot of folks catch catfish here also as a lot of soybeans and other grain spill out when they're loading barges, and the fish feed on it."

And it didn't take long for Bates to put us on the feisty white bass as we each caught several out of the school before moving on to try another spot.

"During high-water conditions, stay out in 20 feet of water and cast to the shelf where the water comes through the ditch. In low water, start farther out, cast up onto the shelf and work until you find them. I've caught almost every species of fish in this lake right here."

Crankbaits, jigs and spoons are all good fish producers in this area, depending upon the water levels.

 

No. 2: N33 23.741 x W91 05.555 - Leave the casino, and head back south until you get to the Sand Bar area. Stay on the right side close to the shoreline, and turn up into the willows when you see the ditch flowing through the trees.

"Fish the brush, trees and trash along the area where the ditch flows out into the lake," said Bates. "You can catch fish from the outside of the brush all the way up into the ditch when the water is flowing through."

Black, blue or purple jigs are good bets for catching lunker bass in this trash-filled area. However, current is the key to catching fish here.

 

No. 3: N33 23.739 x W91 05.064 - Leave the ditch and head northeast across the lake until you get to the tip of the willow line.

"There's a series of sand ridges running all through this area where you see the willows growing," Bates said. "When the river is at the 40-foot mark at Greenville, the willow ridge will be 12 feet deep on the east side and 19 feet on the west side."

Bates advised anglers to keep an eye on their depth finders and watch for the contour and depth changes.

"When the fish are active, I'll key on 9- to 14-foot depths and fish topwaters around the willows, and crankbaits and large worms on the drops and ledges."

 

No. 4: N33 23.462 x W91 05.150 - Moving farther south through the willows, anglers will come to the highest point on the southern side of the sandbar willow ridges. You can actually see where the sandbar emerges from the willows.

"I'll fish a jig, worm and even topwater bait around the willows in this area," said Bates.

When the fish are turned on, this spot can be red hot, offering enough lunker bass at times to win a tournament.

 

No. 5: N33 22.185 x W91 05.931 - Leave No. 4, and head across the lake and south until you see the Mississippi Marine sign on the southeast bank. Continue toward the willows just north of Mississippi Marine until you see two poles sticking out of the water at either end of a sunken barge. Bass will relate to the top of the barge.

"Bass want something different, that's all I know," said Bates. "Fish the top of the barge with a crankbait, and follow up with a jig or worm. These are metal, and the bass just love to relate to them."

 

No. 6: N33 21.553 x W91 06.792 - Leave No. 5, and go south to the Power Plant Cove. Turn left at the cove entrance just before you get to the Mississippi River. Fish the rip rap along the north bank.

"I'll fish a crankbait or spinnerbait in this area," Bates said. "If the fish are tight to the brush and not real active, I'll hit them with a jig or large tube instead."

 

No. 7: N33 26.556 x W91 03.411 - Head back up lake to the north past the casinos and grain elevator perhaps a quarter to half mile on the right and stop well out from a small ramp located near an A-frame house. Proceed with caution as a long rectangular-shaped rock pile extends well out in the lake and will tear your motor up in times of low water. The top of the rocks start showing at 17 feet on the Greenville River gauge.

"There's just no telling how many tournaments have been won right here," said Bates.

During the early morning, Bates advises anglers to use topwaters such as Zara Spooks or Pop-Rs. Crankbaits, Carolina rigs and jigs are top producers around the rock piles later in the day.

"Once the water level drops to 10 feet or less over the rocks, the bream will also start biting, and folks will catch the stew out of them," Bates said. "It's just a really good hot-weather fishing spot."

 

No. 8: N33 27.175 x W91 05.174 - Leave No. 7, and head north until you get to the split in the lake at The Chute. Take the left fork into the chute, and stop on either side in the willows. The water was 17 to 20 feet deep in the willows on the right side where we fished.

"Cast buzz baits or spinnerbaits around the willows, depending upon the activity level of the fish," said Bates. "If the action is slow and the bass aren't active, I'll flip into the middle of the brush and willow trees with a large tube."

Once you pitch your jig or tube into the brush, let it fall about 4 to 5 feet, and you'll sometimes feel a bump when they take it.

"However, more times than not you won't feel the fish hit - they'll just have it in their mouth," he said.

Once you find out if the fish are on the laydown logs, tree trunks or in the thick brushtops, then you can target the same type spots and really rack up, according to Bates.

After the fish are through spawning, this is a great buzz bait lake.

And the fish are prone to be on either side of the Chute also.

"I've also caught a lot of fish on Pop R's around these trees and brush," he said.

 

No. 9: N33 27.356 x W91 04.827 - After fishing the Chute, head back out toward the main lake just as you came in, and fish the point on the left side where the split begins. There's a long sandbar that runs from the willows to the middle of the lake, and the bass will really stack up on it at times. This is the ledge were famed crankbait fisherman David Fritts won a regional bass tournament a few years ago.

"You want to fish this ledge when the river gauge is at 30 feet or lower, with the prime level being 25 feet," said Bates. "The ridge runs from 5 feet on top near the willows to 20 feet out on the end, and falls off even deeper on either side."

Crankbaits and Carolina rigs are tough to beat on this spot. Fritts caught his large strings on crankbaits.

 

No. 10: N33 27.438 x W91 04.827 - Leave No. 9, head back south just a short distance and stop in front of the orange house on the east side of the lake.

"There's an old wooden barge that was sunk right here in this spot," said Bates.

He proceeded to show me the barge on his Humminbird 997- CSI Side Scan unit.

"See those planks on the wooden barge," he continued.

To my astonishment, I could clearly see the planks on the barge with amazing clarity. Anglers should work the barges with their favorite crankbaits, but be forewarned as the old wooden planks may snare a crankbait every once in a while.

"I'll fish a jig or worm on the wooden barges," Bates said. "And you can even catch crappie and bream around these barges also."